Have oil spills become so common in the U.S. that they are no longer considered news? The same week that ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline ruptured, spewing thousands of barrels of sticky bitumen sludge all over an Arkansas town, two other oil spills categorized as “major” by federal standards occurred in the U.S. Yet the three spills have received very little attention by national news outlets.
On Good Friday, the same day that the ExxonMobil spill erupted underneath a suburban development in Mayflower, Arkansas, Shell Pipeline, a unit of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, shut down its West Columbia, Texas, pipeline when federal government monitors detected hundreds of barrels were being lost.
The U.S. National Response Center warned Shell on March 29 that calculations showed at least 700 barrels (29,400 gallons) of oil had disappeared from the pipeline. The following Monday, however, Shell officials said there was “no evidence” of an oil leak.
Later in the week, however, the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that that oil had indeed spilled into Vince Bayou in Southeast Texas, a short waterway that stretches to a shipping channel that empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
Officials have been reluctant to say how much oil was lost in the breach, but the earliest Coast Guard announcement said that at least 50 barrels had spilled in the bayou. The same officials emphasized that was a very early estimate and that the quantity would likely change.
On March 25, a Chevron pipeline carrying nearly 30,000 barrels of diesel and jet fuel per day ruptured, spilling hundreds of barrels of fuel into a Utah river. The pipeline, which runs from Spokane, Washington, to Salt Lake City, split in the vicinity of Willard Bay State Park, forcing the evacuation of park visitors and campers. The spill also ran into the soil and marshes near the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
On March 29, Chevron crews had reportedly recovered 15,000 gallons of the spilled fuel – about half of the total amount of fuel released from the broken pipeline. The Utah spill was the state’s third major oil spill in as many years.